I have traveled in predominantly white-occupied spaces for much of my adult life, first as a flight attendant, where I was often one of the only Black crewmembers. More recently, it has been my choice to be in an interracial marriage and follow the path of my husband, who is white. Our recent trip has reminded me why I chose to call my blog EbonyTravelers. There is a distinct difference in the traveling experiences of Black and non-Black travelers. Although challenging, there are some steps black travelers can take to make their travel more comfortable and enjoyable.
Before traveling, research your destination to get a sense of the local culture and customs. For example, I have been on many cruises but have yet to go on an Azamara cruise. I wanted to try it because it is known as a luxury cruise line offering unique and immersive travel experiences. It is also known for its fine dining and high-quality service. However, when booking this cruise, I knew that only a few fellow passengers might look like me. In my research, I saw no ads that included people of color, and the only other minorities in ads were staff members. Therefore, when I got on board, I was not surprised by the makeup of the cruise ship’s passengers or crew.
Be prepared for microaggressions when traveling in predominantly white-occupied spaces. My trip to the Amalfi Coast was another example, and just like being on the Azamara cruise ship, I experienced plenty of questioning looks. For instance, I dined at a fine dining restaurant on the Amalfi coast. I knew that, as a rule, eating a chef’s offering with your hand is not considered appropriate, especially in formal or fine dining settings. No silverware was placed on the table, and when questioned, the waiter mumbled that the proffered chef’s menu should be eaten by hand. The bread basket was not brought to our table directly, even though diners seated after us were served bread immediately. In addition, it took us several minutes to be offered a menu, much less a question about the first drinks. This may have been a one-off experience, but I understood it to be the micro-aggressive behavior I am accustomed to.
Create your own safe space when possible. On the Amalfi Coast, we used private transportation for hotel transfers and boat tours. In comparison, we decided to go with tour excursions on the Azamara cruise. Again, the reputation of Azamara’s service made this seem like a good choice. The bus was okay, but I decided to sit in the front seat on the return trip from one of the tours. Shortly after, I heard the comment, “People don’t like when you change seats on the bus,” No doubt the comment was meant for me, but like Rosa, I chose not to move. Additionally, the cruise ship had many beautiful spaces for relaxing. I enjoyed those spaces and often did so alone, noticing that many other passengers would ask to sit beside others and strike up conversations.
Remember, you have the right to enjoy your vacation and feel safe and respected while traveling. By researching, being prepared, and creating your own safe space, you can have a positive and enjoyable experience while traveling in predominantly white spaces. These are a few examples of my experiences just this trip. As an EbonyTravelers, travel can be challenging, but it is always worth it. This trip has been one of my best so far. I live to tell the tale.